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So We’re All Going to End Up Talking About Catwoman anyway 9/21/11

In lieu of this week’s review post, let’s talk about Batman and Catwoman #$%^ing.

Specifically:  The last scene of this week’s Catwoman # 1, which fairly explicitly shows the two lovebirds getting it on.

This has caused…. some controversy in the comics blogsphere.  Basically, I figured it was gonna eat up all the comments to my regularly scheduled review post anyway, so I’ll throw in my 1500 or so words and everybody else can have at it.   RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS # 1 was also indicted in the uproar, but my shop was sold out so I ain’t gonna talk about it.

So.

Catwoman # 1 … and most of the costumes stay on…” by Judd Winnick (writer), Guillem March (artist) Momeu Morey (colors), Sal Cipriano (letters).  $2.99, 20pp, FC, DC Comics.

Pictures after the cut…



1)  So that’s what all the uproar was all about.  Initial reactions to the last page:  (A) kinda skeevy, and (B) very confusing.  As far as I can tell  there’s no actual penetration implied on panel -  There are a lot of limbs all scattered every which-way, and there’s definitely sexy nipple-touching, but the costumes are mostly on, and the costumes are definitely preventing genital contact.

Here’s what Abhay Khosla had to say on the scans.

(Really, check the link.  The one thing your life is missing is an essay by Abhay Khosla on Batman and premature ejaculation.)

2)   Laura Hudson from Comics Alliance was upset by this comic.  (And Red Hood, which I didn’t read.)  Keep in mind, for context, that this is a lady who started a whole blog about Cerebus.  So it’s not like she’s completely uncomfotable dealing with non-feminist, anti-feminist, and crazzitttty ass ideas.

3)   Here’s one of the comments in response to the above link:   “Stopped reading a quarter the way through, because your femanazi rant was making me physically sick. Get off your high horse all ready. This article ran long, an I’m sure your fish eating lesbian book club is wondering where you are. I won’t sit here for a minute an be made to feel like a perv, because I enjoyed catwoman ( no desire to read outsiders), it wasn’t done distastefully in my opinion, in fact my fiancee liked it as well.”

4)  I kind of miss the days when Rush Limbaugh quoting republicans bragged about being Real Men, rather than talking about how their precious widdle baby’s-not-on-solid-food-yet stomachs are all upset and quakey quivery.

A helpful debating tip:  If the core of your argument is “I am a tremendous wuss” it is probably time to reconsider your thesis.

5)  Greg McElhaton from  CBR main has some issues as well and, I dunno  -  That wasn’t really a review.  It’s 80% a statement of moral objection, with very little discussion of craft and  a one star rating at the end.    “Uncomforable to read in public places” is not analogous to  bad. Plenty of, say, Paul Cezanne’s stuff is technically Not Safe For Wwork.     Moral arguments can be part of a review, but I don’t think they should be the meat  of the review.  Basically, I think a reviewer here should answer two questions:  1)  Is it good? and 2)  Did I like it?    And if the reviewer is worth a damn, the answer to the two questions are, occasionally, gonna be different.  If you dislike something so much that you can’t critically analyze the work, then you should pass on reviewing it.   (I’d give the book:  **1/2 to ***, except that I think star rating systems are dumb, and my argument is as much that as it is dumpin’ on Mr. McElhaton.)

I have similar issues with Brian Hibbs’ take at the Savage Critics -  I don’t think one off-putting sex scene automatically makes a GOOD book an AWFUL.

6)  “This feels like a soft core skin flick” rankled me a bit as well  -  Let’s not be putting superhero comics on TOO much of a high horse, here, please.

The way males consume superhero comics isn’t so far removed from the way males consume porn.   In superhero comics the reader sees himself as the muscle-bound virile superhero who dominates his opponents through superior physical and maaaaaayyyybe mental attributes.  In porn the reader sees himself as the guy who gets to screw (is it to much of a stretch to say dominate?) the most beautiful women.   They’re both alpha male displacement fantasy.  I’m a consumer of both. I’ll defend both in most scenarios.  I make no judgements.  But let us call a spade a damn shovel.  Comics are, historically, only a notch higher on  lowest common denominator trash culture scale.  They’re not sanitized.  They’re sort of bad for you….

7)  And I don’t see this, in comics case, as completely inaccurate.   I also don’t see this as a bad thing -   Most of the important are and most of the great art  produced in the 20th century is hanging out at the moral fringes, and could be deemed offensive.  Guernica.  Ulysses.  The Hot Fives and Sevens.  The White Album.  Elvis’ hip shake, or Lady Gaga’s meat dress.

8)  On a semi-related note.  I liked the first sequence in Catwoman # 1.  Catwoman is trying to get dressed in her Kitty-Cat Suit (all bra all hanging out) and save the lives of her cats while armed intruders try to kill her.  I thought it was well drawn.  Exciting.  I thought general chaos and Catwoman’s kinetic movement were very well portrayed.   And the cats -  Oh My God, the cats!  They’re these expressionistic, big-eyed manga things, these hilariously rendered cartoons with vast emotional range.  And they’re cute, too!    I’m callin’ it right now:  Guillem March is the best cat artist since Frank Quitely.  And  the barely-coverdness-of-the-boobs didn’t bother me at all.  And there was a logical in-story reason for Selina to be dressed the way she was.  Sure, it was designed to arise the prurient fanboy interests – (Full disclosure:  It arose the HELL out of my prurient interest) but it didn’t feel like pandering.

9)  So I am, at least in this case,  pro bra and panty shots in superhero comics.  If you are anti bra and panty shots, I will be willing to listen, but I think you need to address the historical context -  IE scantily clad females have been part of American comics  for a long, long, looonnnng time.  I grantya, the “We’ve always done it this way so it must be right”  argument  is always bullshit when presented alone, but there’s also the “Y’know, comics sold in the millions and they didn’t turn out a generation of sex perverts” argument and the “CMON,  Matt Baker is freakin’ awesome!” argument.    I find the latter especially hard to disprove.

10)  All that said -  I am in complete agreement with Laura Hudson on the actual (if not) sex (then erotic nipple play and implied PE) scene.  To whit:

11)  The moral stance that the book itself takes is… puzzling and disturbing to me.   (And I’d argue that every work of art can be defined by a moral position.)  The first 16 pages could be described as “a fun romp” except for one page of extremely graphic and bloody violence.   It’s clear that Selina Kyle enjoys being Catwoman -  There’s a scene where she cuisinarts the snot out of a room full or Russian Mobsters with a big ol’ cheesy grin on her face.  Here’s what the comic tells us.   Beating people up is FUN.  Chloroforming the bartender and leaving her in the closet is FUN. But the sex scene reads like a memoir of heroin addiction:  “Usually it’s because I want him.   Tonight I think it’s because I NEED him.”  “And he seems…. Angry.  But that doesn’t slow either of us down.”  Actual quotes, sweartagod.

Raking people with your claws is Fun.  Sexual activity  is an Addiction, fueled by anger and hate.  Certainly, there are those of you who disagree with wanton, lustful, pre-maritial sex, which is a perfectly valid position.  But here’s it’s shown to be a lot less healthy and far more personally probelmatic than cutting someone’s face open with your kitty cat claws.  And that’s just a weird position to take.

12)  And here’s the feminist argument -  But cut me some slack, weaked-stomached feminazi guy, at least it’s dirty.

The scene was meant to arouse some sexual excitement in the audience.  Right?  Anybody arguing this?  But as a sexual fantasy, this was resolutely one-sided.   Having a Strong Assertive Woman throw herself at you -  you try to resist, but are overcome by her yearning for your body – is a pretty good erotic story.   Everyone who is interested in fucking Catwoman should be happy.

Conversely, throwing yourself breasts first at this dude who doesn’t really want you and seems angry so you can avoid possible incarceration….  Well, that hardly sounds like every straight woman’s fantasy.  If you’re interested in fucking Catwoman, you’re SOL.

God forgive me for the double entendre, but I can’t think of any other way to phrase this:  Good sex scenes provide multiple entry points.  At the v-e-r-y least it should be satisfying for straight men to imagine themselves in the straight man’s role, and straight women to imagine them in the straight woman’s role.  Here, one side of the dynamic is all “awesome!” and one side is all “Yuuuuggggggh.”  This is… impolite writing.  It feels like your not takin’ the time to get your partner off.

And it is worse that the “strong, sexually liberated woman” is used as a plot device to initiate a fantasy sequence which seems to belong only to straight guys.

13)  It renders the book tonally inconsistent.  It’s all FUN ROMP except for one page of truly nasty violence and a sex scene that seems like it came from a different, darker, and SO much worse comic.

14)  In the end, I’m mostly let down by the drop-off in craft.  My response is not “OH NOS!  They are doing the ESS-EEE-EXX!  THE CHILDRENS!  Think of THE CHILDRENS!”  It’s “Why do we need THIS sex scene THERE?”   It turned a good comic into four/fifths of a good comic with a juvenile bid for attention at the end that doesn’t  fit with the rest of the story, and now all anyone is going to remember is the sensationalistic bid for attention.  I ended all of last week’s reviews by asking (am I gonna) buy the next one? And… well, I was ’till page 17.

And, what the heck, here’s this weeks rankings for the books I did get -  I might try to toss up some reviews in the next couple of days.   Red Hood and the Outlaws, Nightwing, and Captain Atom were sold out at my shop.  (Before it opened, no less!)

1)  Wonder Woman # 1

2)  Batman # 1

3)  Blue Beetle # 1

4)  Birds of Prey # 1

5)  Supergirl # 1

6)  Catwoman # 1 (See!  Not dead last!)

7) Dc Universe Presents Deadman # 1

8)  Green Lantern Corps. # 1

9)  Legion of Superheroes # 1

I might try to get some reviews in before Burgas drops his big EVERY BOOK REVIEWED post later this week….  Keep ya’ posted.

39 Comments

Commence pointless arguing in 3..2..1

THANK YOU for calling out those making mountains of molehills and who seem to have nothing better to do than find a new way to be offended, most often on behalf of others who they think should be as outraged as they are.

The ironic juxtaposition of those men especially making comments about how women are offended, but often without supporting claims to that point, makes me laugh as it seems on one hand they’re trying to be the white knights by defending their honor en masse, and yet at the same time are speaking for them basically telling them that they should be offended and why.

I’m surprised comic’s answer to Al Sharpton hasn’t weighed in yet on this…

The author didn’t really say people were making mountains out of molehills

I think point 13 is all that was needed to say, the other stuff is just sound and fury…

I also think you underrated some of the other books from last week, especially DCU Presents Deadman. YMMV.

Not to change the subject, but is this new Catwoman book part of the DCnU relaunch? The one thing that stood out to me was that it looks like he’s in his spandex, not his current suit of armor.

I can’t wait to find out who comics’ answer to Al Sharpton is!

nice for proving that the whole issue is being taken out of proportion for one batman and catwoman are both humans fictional humans who have desires and needs including for sex . for doubtful people would be having this uproar if superman was doing it to lois or wonder woman was doing it with steve trevor batman and catwoman given their on and off will they or will then not hook up over the decades finaly deside to have some sex and some are in an uproar. for doubtful dc degreed batman be celibit besides its a work of fiction.

According to my father, who fought dogfights with the Japanese in flights with a 50% return rate, the aftermath of combat is an incredible sex drive. Same with some killers, according to the British CRACKER show. Some kind of “we almost got killed better reproduce RIGHT NOW” survival trait kicks in. Kind of like Emergency S@x. I thought that was what went on in this comic. Selina lives BIG and overindulges in EVERYTHING – and was almost killed twice and might die tomorrow, and, “Oh, there’s the most hunky man in the universe! Gimme!”

So I thought it all perfectly knit together – when you get into the heads of the characters.

Apodaca, you’ll be able to figure it out. Just think of someone who made a name by manufacturing a controversy and became the poster child for a “cause” that has been roundly abused. ;-)

“I can’t wait to find out who comics’ answer to Al Sharpton is!”

That is a hell of a cliffhanger.

@Charles: If you’re talking about who I think you are, that’s just gross. She’s a real pro, a great writer, and a standup lady, and the controversy she brought attention to was hardly manufactured.

Sexism in comics was and is a problem, and it’s frankly bizarre to me when people flat-out deny it rather than acknowledge even a tiny bit of truth to it.

I’m of the the “stop telling people what is and isn’t empirically sexy (and stop trying to score points off telling people what is and isn’t empirically sexy–see reviews cited above” camp), but the comments cited in point 3 above are absolutely horrifying.

My problem with the issue is that it had a weak plot and turned what was a strong, independent, fun loving character into a child with no impulse control or intelligence. Nothing Catwoman does in the entire issue makes much sense to me.

I very much doubt the character as she was written here could evade police capture, let alone Batman. Sex scene aside the issue was very weak. The problem with the sex scene was that it added nothing to the overall plot or character development. It was like a pay off for making it through such a lame comic, a payoff fans did not want.

This was just another example of DC not knowing what their fans want. It also needs to be said that sales for this issue prove nothing as most people bought it without reading/hearing about it’s contents. Let’s see how the second issue performs.

Nightwing was pretty standard fare. I thought I was buying The Atom and was looking for Ray Palmer so I was . . . confused. It’s good enough that I’ll probably get #2 but nothing past that unless it wows.

I kinda figured out what we were getting after three pages featuring plenty of our protaganist’s boobs and ass, and not a single image of her face. At that point, that last page didn’t suprise me. Honestly, there’s nothing in this book that’s any worse than any of the ‘bad girl’ comics of the mid ’90s, of which Catwoman most assuredly was at that time. It’s certainly serving a specific audience, unfortunately that’s not me. Luckily, there’s a fantastic Catwoman series written by Ed Brubaker that had some wonderfully stylish artowork that I have in trades. While this Catwoman and her comic series might not be for me, I can always go back to those books.

So no one else read the first 2 or 3 pages and thought “She has no head!”

I could be considered a Catwoman/Batman fan (a “shipper” as they say). But since they’re been sleeping together for quite some time and, prior to September, their relationship was usually portrayed in a sexy but much more mature way, I don’t exactly consider this a high point for either character. Batman and Catwoman having sex on panel while still wearing most of their costumes with the narrative boxes reading like something out of a rape-fantasy story is honestly something I never thought would appear in a Bat-related book.

@Lorrie

Subtlety is definitely not part of the “new 52″, unfortunately. We’re going to have to get used to it.

It seems to me that DC wants to have it both ways. They want to attract female readers with books like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, and Birds of Prey, but they also want to pander to their supposedly male audience with books like Catwoman and that other one that everyone is an uproar over.

Charles J. Baserap

September 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Thad, you’re correct and I’d NEVER deny that; the problem is that, like Shaprton, real instances became blurred by calling that card for even the most innocuous of things and, I’m sorry, but having read her blogs and having seen how outright mean spirited she’s been with people who have differing opinions (but to be fair, some people have it coming for being outright rude to her, so she’s not always the instigator), especially with politics, I don’t exactly have tremendous respect for her in that regard. I buy her work, and would neve deny her writing ability, and have every issue of Secret Six and Wonder Woman, but what started out as a legitimate gripe has now been overplayed to the point where any time a female character has anything happen you have a bunch of mindless cheerleaders screaming about it, which greatly cheapens the ACTUAL instances.

I’m sorry, but I would never deny it was an issue, but I WILL challenge that it’s every single time they scream it from the rooftops at perceived notions and in that regards, the Al Sharpton comparison to me, is valid because he has raised “race” issues about things that had nothing to even do with race thereby cheapening and distracting people from the unfortunately very real instances.

I am sorry we don’t agree on that, and that’ fine, I don’t have any problem with you for that, but I am not sorry that having seen some of the things she’s said, and the way she’s insulted people in the past and created a catchall that’s been overused and overplayed has soured me towards her.

I wish her no harm in any way and will continue to buy her stuff because I can separate the person from the politics and views in the majority of cases, but as a registered Independent and former US Secret Service Officer (you can find my book on Amazon, An American at the Crossroads by Charles J. Baserap), I took great offense at some of the words she used to describe people who supported parts of the war and the way she wrote Batwoman in Wonder Woman #600 as making a comment about being disgusted she had to protect the people who protected the guy she voted against. As a former Officer who HAD that job, I found that to be a slap in the face. Sorry, maybe she meant nothing by it, but it pissed me off that she had a former soldier saying that about sworn law enforcement officers.

Again, I wish you and her well, and don’t deny women being mistreated and it DOES suck; but not EVERY instance of a woman getting hurt is a valid example and that’s what it’s become.

@Lorrie: Well, I know *I* did, but that was a given, right? ;)

Charles J. Baserap

September 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm

And I also apologize for mentioning my book; I didn’t mean for that to play off like a plug but a lot of people can pretend to be someone on the Internet and I wanted it clear that I really WAS in the USSS and you can even find me on Facebook for further proof.

None of us cared who was in charge, as our duty was to the office of the president not the person personally, and it really insulted me, and many others in my position past and present, when such a comment was made, especially since it was so out of place in the story itself.

I really liked this issue… all parts of it. The vibe really felt like Catwoman being recast as “Exile in Guyville” era Liz Phair. I see no problem with a mainstream female comics character who’s totally in control and aggressive with her own sexuality. In fact, I kinda like it.

And I don’t like it in a horny fanboy kind of way. More so, I like it as a mature reader who also feels mentally engaged by things like the staircase sex scene in Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. Why should Catwoman’s obvious status as a provocative character not be an overt part of the way she’s written? To me, it makes perfect sense.

@charles interesting comments, youmight be interested in the manga called Eagle about a Japanese American guy whonruns for president…

Charles J. Baserap

September 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Also (one last also! lol), I apologize if I offended anyone in what I wrote as that was not my intent.

I just feel strongly about the particular issues and sometimes that comes off as too strong. I don’t begrudge anyone who disagrees with me on that, any more than I expect to be hated for my own viewpoints.

Thank you all and I apologize again if I made anyone upset.

Charles J. Baserap

September 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Thanks, Ninjazilla, I’ve never heard of that one. Any particular starting point that you’d recommend?

For the record, part of the reason I got so upset is because people too often associated us, and me, as extensions of policy and couldn’t separate one from the other.

I was dating a girl for 5 1/2 years and once I started the job, she dumped me because she couldn’t get passed it that I was protecting W. It didn’t matter that I worked for the people, and that I had not voted for him in 2000, all that she saw was that I worked in the same place and swore an oath to defend his life. But the thing is, I’d have done that for ANY president. That’s the job. And I took perhaps more to heart than I should have when I saw that one particular comment because it felt very disrespectful, whether intended or not, and I wasn’t the only one of “my kind” who felt that.

My issue with this issue is not that Bats and Cats are getting it on. The issue is how obvious the pandering is. If you’re going to write about a sexual relationship between two costumed individuals, there’s a sensitive and subtle way to do it. The other way is to paraphrase Frank Miller and/or have your wish fulfillment character jump the bones of your other wish fulfillment character. Obviously this is the first issue, so there’s little we can say about Selina’s characterization over time, but it seems that this scene is designed to titillate in the most juvenile fashion rather than to sketch her as a character.

I think a lot of reviewers are conflating the moral issue with the technical issue, which this author points at. It’s a scene that’s poorly written because it’s adolescent and doesn’t say anything about either character. It’s not a bad scene because it implies penetration.

Me again… in Hibbs’ review, he says, “I don’t care if Bruce and Selina have sex… and I generally expect that they do quite often. I don’t really need to see it, though” which to me, is a really weird thing to say. Is his problem that they are children’s character or that they have sex? Does Hibbs become uncomfortable with fictional portrayals of sex? If knowing that it happens is fine, how is seeing is so awful? Without reading too much into this blurb of a review, I’d be interested in hearing his thoughts on Starfire without resorting to “imagine if a kid said this!”

@chad: ” for doubtful people would be having this uproar if superman was doing it to lois or wonder woman was doing it with steve trevor”

Um … I seriously doubt Clark and Lois would have been going at it, on a rooftop, mostly costumed (and anonymously). Or Diana and Steve, for that matter. So, yes, I would be “having this uproar.”

It does say something about the characters, Matthew.

Both Batman and Catwoman have problems with real intimacy. That’s why “the costumes stay on.”

Really, you can say a lot of things about this scene, and I don’t think it’s well-written or used for good dramatic effect, but you can’t say Winnick gets the characters wrong. They’re not Superman and Lois. Batman is a screwed up guy that is probably unable to have a healthy relationship with a woman as Bruce Wayne, ever since he saw his Mommy shot down before his eyes. It has to be anonymous, and it has to be with someone who is as twisted as he is.

If you depicted them like Clark and Lois, it would feel fake.

A little bit of channeling of Guido Crepax in the small panels of that first page! Now there’s a chap who knows how to draw sex comics.

Of course modern superhero comics are skeezy. That what happens when characters who were created for pre-pubescent children become obsessed over by grown adults. It’s an unhealthy scene.

Well written, thoughtful article by the way.

So Gail Simone is comics’ answer to Al Sharpton, eh?

That’s something I hadn’t considered; that MAYBE Batman and Catwoman aren’t actually having sex, but instead some kind of… sexual play? Foreplay? Anyway the stupid part to me is that they had to fight first, then stop and make out ON A ROOFTOP. Wouldn’t a sniper just loooove to catch Bats with his pants down!

Also, the REAL problem I have with this issue: Selina’s past as a prostitute is back. I was hoping it would be left out of the reboot. As if she couldn’t be an interesting character without it. In fact, everything in this comics seems to imply precisely that without her sex appeal, DC couldn’t sell her. And that is… pitiful.

Mark,
I am so confused. Didn’t they already do it, a lot, like in Hush or some other times? I read Hush, a long time ago. I’m sure they did it.

So people aren’t mad about the ess eee ex, but mad about–? no, I really don’t know.

Does the rest of the comic pretend to be some bastion of moral feminism or something something?

I don’t read that much DC,
-Douglas from Alma

have you got friends in cat woman.

hiyaa where u rilly reborn to a cat

http://monsterkidclassichorrorforum.yuku.com/topic/34612/Chastity–Adaptations–Comic-Strips–Comic-Books—-joke–h?page=-1

Much as I fondly recall what Christopher Reeve did as an activist, and his portrayal of Superman, he may have sent an unfortunate precedent with Superman II (see Superman Returns for the result of that tryst in the Fortress of Solitude. What would Doc Savage say, I wonder.)

quote from Max Allan Collins:

“My problems with this latter-day Batman, specifically — and the latter-day Batman character in general — is a basic wrongheadedness in approach. Batman was created by kids for kids, a juvenile fantasy embraced by adolescents of all ages. Making a realistic, “adult” version is fundamentally foolish, even silly: Catwoman is a prostitute; Commissioner Gordon cheats on his pregnant wife”.

More from Max Allan Collins:

http://www.bigshinyrobot.com/reviews/archives/34498

“What a lot of people, the Batman show is despised by a lot of comic fans, particularly Batman fans, the dirty little secret of the Batman TV show is that it was extremely accurate to the comic, it was exactly how the comic was………………….No one would cop to that because they wanted him to be a dark knight, they wanted him to be oh-so serious but now they’ve got Batman screwing Catwoman, which is like the Tin Man doing Dorothy doggy-style.

It’s crazy! It’s just crazy.

These things began as comics for children…….”

quote from Max Allan Collins:

“My problems with this latter-day Batman, specifically — and the latter-day Batman character in general — is a basic wrongheadedness in approach. Batman was created by kids for kids, a juvenile fantasy embraced by adolescents of all ages. Making a realistic, “adult” version is fundamentally foolish, even silly: Catwoman is a prostitute; Commissioner Gordon cheats on his pregnant wife”.

More from Max Allan Collins:

http://www.bigshinyrobot.com/reviews/archives/34498

“What a lot of people, the Batman show is despised by a lot of comic fans, particularly Batman fans, the dirty little secret of the Batman TV show is that it was extremely accurate to the comic, it was exactly how the comic was………………….No one would cop to that because they wanted him to be a dark knight, they wanted him to be oh-so serious but now they’ve got Batman screwing Catwoman, which is like the Tin Man doing Dorothy doggy-style.

It’s crazy! It’s just crazy.

These things began as comics for children…….”

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